The Super Hero Guide to Vanquishing Migraine Pain, Pt. I: Featuring Harry Potter

Badass Wonder Woman Vanquish Migraine Pain


When you see the enemy on the horizon, you have two choices: run, or stand and face it. But when the enemy is a basilar migraine, there’s really only one thing to do: stand and face it like a woman.

Wonder Woman.

There’s a scene in the movie where Diana is in disguise. She’s wearing a big dark cloak, her hair is covered with a hood, and she’s not wearing her tiara. She’s walking with Steve through the middle of the some WWI trenches as he tells her they can’t get past this point. This battalion has been fighting for a year and haven’t gained an inch and there’s nothing they can do. And by the way, they aren’t here to save everyone anyway. (He’s very goal-oriented, that Steve.)

But Diana—Wonder Woman—is like, That is so weak sauce, Steve. Watch this. And she liberates that whole little town.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t? Because you feel like you’re the one who just got annihilated by Wonder Woman

Well, you have been tackled. Migraines are no joke. They’re a whole body horror and man, sometimes it feels like getting tackled to the ground would be a relief. And though it seemed like you couldn’t possibly endure, you did. You’ve done it again and again.

That alone doesn’t make you Wonder Woman. She threw herself into battle and we’re still trying to get our insurance to approve Botox for migraines, right?

But that you’ve endured so many brutal migraines, and that you’ve stared down so many basilar migraines with their dizziness and blurred vision, means you’ve got the chops to be. It won’t be long before you’re able to not only face migraines, but do face them with grace, strength, and power.

To do that, we have to start by reframing your experience.

Part I. Reframing Migraines: From Menace to Nuisance

Menace

You know better than anyone the painful, debilitating, excruciating experience of a migraine. They’re neurological, mysterious and no amount of reframing is going to make them a pleasant experience. Which is good, because that is not the point.

The point is: most of our feelings don’t originate in the brain. The brain is an interpreting center. It pulls information from our nerves, interprets them, then issues a response. It takes sound waves and turns them into music. It takes light and turns them into beautiful vistas.

We think that we smile because we’re happy. But sometimes, we’re happy because we smile. And sometimes we’re angry because our heart starts racing and our stomach clenches, so we prepare to fight. (Radiolab devoted a fascinating hour to this a few years ago.) We think that we can’t control our feelings or emotions, but in fact, the relationship  is a little complicated, and you probably have more control than you think.

So, what happens when we’re in pain?

Pain is experienced in two ways. First, there’s the physical pain of the experience. Your brain both issues and responds to that. Pain is your nervous system’s alarm bells telling you (your brain) that something needs fixing. Not everyone gets basilar migraines, but you can think of them as a sort of warning system, like a tornado siren. 

The second is much more complex and interesting. Pain is also psychological. You know this if you’ve ever seen a baby take a nasty bump and look to you before deciding whether to cry. You also know this if you’ve ever woken up feeling terrible and, instead of nursing yourself back to health with a day in bed, you go to work and feel fine by lunch.

The psychological/emotional pain makes the physical experience of pain much worse.

You can see it here, in one of YouTube’s first great viral sensations Charlie Bit My Finger. It’s clear that Charlie bit His finger and He was upset by it. Doesn’t he look ready to cry (at :30)?

And then he sees the TV. For a moment, he forgets the pain entirely.

He didn’t make up the pain. It wasn’t in his head. But the degree of pain he was in was impacted by his mental state. When it first happened, he was very upset. The shock of the bite probably contributed to his dismay. Then, suddenly, it didn’t seem to bother him at all (though surely it was still there). Finally, he smiled about it.

He smiled! And then gave his brother a good scolding.

Nuisance

Reframing migraines means asserting control over the psychological portion of that pain. It means that you’re going cast off your security blanket, put on your Wonder Woman Tiara, and get out there on that battlefield.

It means that you’re going to experience pain without identifying with it.

Because you’ve done it before and you can do it again. Only this time, you’ve got your tiara and bullet-deflecting shield on, and you’re coming from a place of power.

Your new mantra is: my migraine is just a pain.

Three Tips for Framing

1. Change your self-talk. When you respond to your feelings of pain with, Ow I’m in so much pain I can’t do this oh my God owowow, then you have just entered a terrible and vicious cycle that will prolong and exacerbate your migraine. The basilar migraine sounded the first alarm bells. The migraine sounded the second. You started feeling it and set off the third round. Now you’ve got 2-3 sets of pain bells going off in your body (!), and no fire department to rescue you. That’s a whole lot of pain happening.

But, instead of focusing on the pain and alarm bells, try reminding yourself, I’ve already done this.  Or, I’ve survived this a million times before and it sucks and I’ll be okay anyway.

I have a pain in my leg and blurred vision. But I am alive.

I am (still) breathing.

I can see.

I can feel my heart beat.

Last week we suggested focusing deeply on the pain itself. Now, try focusing on the things outside your pain. Change the way you talk about pain and you change the way you experience the pain.

2. Distract yourself. Like the boy in the video, get your mind off the pain.

-The natural rhythms in your body are very soothing. If you can, focus on your heart beat or your breathing. Or, lie in a bath and focus on the feel of the water.

-Get a white noise machine and turn it on. Listen for patterns in the static.

-Recite everything you have memorized. Most people have, tucked way back in their brains, rhymes, poems, and songs from childhood. The rhythm of the verses and the exercise of retrieving them can do wonders for keeping a bored brain occupied. (Pain is a go-to distraction for the brain, so keep it as busy as you can.)

3. (For the Harry Potter fans) Practice occlumency.

Remember when Harry has to do private lessons with Snape to close his mind off to Lord Voldemort?

He was never able to do it until he had something to focus on that was stronger than the pain.

His scar burned, but he was master of the pain; he felt it, yet was apart from it. He had learned control at last, learned to shut his mind to Voldemort, the very thing Dumbledore had wanted him to learn from Snape. Just as Voldemort had not been able to possess Harry while Harry was consumed with grief for Sirius, so his thoughts could not penetrate Harry now, while he mourned Dobby. Grief, it seemed, drove Voldemort out…though Dumbledore, of course, would have said that it was love.

–Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

We hope for you that it’s not grief because that seems even more painful and awful than a migraine. We don’t want that for you.

Love, however, seems the perfect antidote.

-Let your friends and loved ones support you. Ask them for help.

-Surround yourself with pictures, wear a friend’s shirt or use gramma’s blanket

-Make a (mental) list of your top 20 memories with each person you care about

-Name 5 generous things you can do for every person in your life, especially your jerky old boss.

-Think of all the times you’ve been carried in your life. Think of the people who held you. Send each one a thought of gratitude.

You can’t stop migraines from attacking, but you sure as hell can keep them from destroying you. Your super power is resilience and persistent though those migraines can be, you have beat them every. single. time.

Part II. Tapping Into Your Superpower

Now that you know your strength, it’s time to prepare for battle. Next week: Tapping into your super power.

—-

Do you experience basilar migraines? What is your self-talk when you feel a migraine coming on?

How to Manage Migraine Pain Without Doctors or Drugs

natural migraine relief without drugs or doctors

Many go through life migraine-free. But then, one night in middle age–bam! It’s like a screeching alarm clock through the brain. Whether you’re a lifelong migraineur or new to hypnic headaches, you can do something about your pain.

When we talk about managing migraine pain, we usually mean how to numb or eliminate pain. Many migraineurs already know, after decades of trial and error, that most pain management methods and drugs do not last, and rarely does medication eliminate migraines forever. So maybe the solution isn’t to try to stop the pain.

Maybe the best solution is to manage the pain. Rather than putting up a wall to keep it out (and failing because pain can jump), you treat it as an employee. You are the boss. You are separate and you are in charge.

Ignoring Your Pain (Is Not The Answer)

Meditation and mindfulness have been shown to effectively reduce migraine pain. But you’re probably thinking, I tried that and it didn’t work. Or, How the hell am I supposed to empty my mind when it’s on fire? Emptying your mind–you’re just not going to be very good at it.

Which is why we’re not talking about that!

The word meditate is from Latin. It means to measure or to contemplate.

Here’s how you beat a hypnic headache: Imagine you’re a boss and you have to decide whether or not to fire your pain. Obviously the answer is yes (!) but you know how HR is. You have to have cause, and you have to have documentation. So, when your pain comes, observe it like every single thing it does is a reason for its termination. Instead: focus on it. Contemplate it. Measure it. 

Visualize your pain. Where in your body are you feeling it? Is it everywhere? What about your right ankle–do you have pain there? What about the tip of your nose? So if it’s not everywhere, where is it exactly?

The key is to not think about you. For example, Oh my God. I’m going to die. My head is going to explode from the pain. Why is this happening? How do I make it stop? What if it never stops?  etc etc etc. That is definitely going to make it worse.

Describe it exactly. Where in your body it is (precisely), sensation, color, intensity. 

How to Terminate Your Headache Pain

For migraines and hypnic headaches, HR has a very specific form they need filled out.

  1. What is the sensation? Pulsing? Throbbing? Dull?
  2. If you had to draw a picture of your pain, what would the color be?
  3. What would the shape be?
  4. You have to make it out of clay. Do you use play-doh or fire it in a kiln?
  5.  Imagine touching it with your fingers. What does the surface feel like?
  6. How would you rate the temperature of your pain?
  7. If you could scoop the hypnic headache (or other migraine) out of your body, put in in a box and market it as an alarm clock, what would you call it? How would you market it? To whom? How much would you charge?
  8. If you had to describe it via gif, which would you choose? (You may do this once the pain subsides.)

Each time you feel yourself pulling out of the pain and into your emotional state (Ow this hurts! I’m in so much pain! I feel terrible! I can’t do this! How many hours has it been?), locate your pain in your body. Describe it. Get that sucker fired.

The Only Thing That Matters

We could link all kinds of research here but really it doesn’t matter what the studies say. Your experience is the only thing that matters. How effective was describing your pain?

Meditation is a practice, which means that it’s meant to be done over and over again, and to be improved upon over time. If you aren’t amazed by the results, try it again with non-migraine pain. Don’t focus on how you’re feeling. Focus on what the pain is like. You’re the boss. 

Don’t suffer through your migraines and hypnic headaches. Remember that the pain is real, but you are stronger and more powerful.  You aren’t going to quit until it’s gone.

What Can Gisele Bundchen Teach Us About Intractable Migraine Relief? A lot.


It’s known that Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen follow a very strict diet: 20% protein, 80% vegetables, and rarely a tomato in sight. What Tom and Giselle avoid may be contributing to your intractable migraine.

The Immune System’s Problem with Tomatoes

Tom and Giselle avoid tomatoes (a more scientific explanation can be found here) because tomatoes contribute to systemic inflammation, as do many other members of the nightshade family. Eating them can contribute (or cause) a range of painful symptoms from joint pain and swelling to asthma, headaches, sinusitis, brain fog, digestive issues, and more.

Inflammation is your body’s way of fighting off disease, dangerous bacteria and infections. It’s why you get a fever when you’re sick, and redness around your mosquito bites. it usually doesn’t last long—just enough for your body to vanquish the intruder.

With systemic inflammation, however, your immune system is engaged throughout your body even when there isn’t an invader. We’re not saying eating a tomato will give you a fever. We’re saying that in some people, tomatoes and other foods may be triggering an immune response in the body. Instead of just digesting the food, moving it through and out of the body, it perceives it as a dangerous foreign agent and puts your whole body on high alert. Over time, this can create more problems, not to mention that once your body associates a certain food or chemical within the food with danger, it may always respond to it as the enemy—making it difficult for you to eat and perhaps even manage migraine pain.

Eliminate Systemic Inflammation, Eliminate Migraine Pain?

It is thought that inflammation may be an underlying cause of migraines. More research needs to be done to determine the exact nature of the link, but you don’t have to wait for that. You can begin running your own migraine triggers experiment today.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a drug targeted specifically to your genetic makeup and specific health needs, and not suffer the negative side effects? There is no magic pill, but you may be amazed at how significantly diet impacts your energy, sleep, mental clarity, mood, and pain levels.

To optimize your diet to boost these key areas of your health, try an elimination diet. That means that for (at least) 30 days, you will entirely avoid eating the foods that are most likely to be problematic. Eliminating them gives your body a chance to let down its defenses (reduce inflammation) and begin to heal. When you try them again 30 days later, will your body still recognize them as threats? Which ones? To what extent?

Everyone will find that some foods are better tolerated than others, and that some foods make you feel immediately bad. Some people will find that eliminating certain things from their diet made them feel like a new person. How do you know what to eliminate?

Your Personalized, Targeted Medicine

First, before you even go looking for the right program to follow, tattoo this to your computer screen: an elimination diet is NOT for weight loss. Don’t sign up for a shake plan or cleanse. Those are designed to lose weight, not reveal pain triggers. Once you’re done with the cleanse or shakes, you’re right back where you started. When you remove inflammatory foods, you will lose weight and, most importantly, reduce (and even eliminate) chronic pain.

There are numerous elimination diets to choose from: Whole30, AIP, GAPS are well-established and have seen good results. They have lots of resources, and Whole30 especially has strong online support. The Wahls Protocol was developed by a doctor with MS specifically to target MS, so it may be of interest to those suffering neurological problems. This piece on the Migraine Diet also supports the findings of the non-migraine specific programs listed above (that cheese, nitrates, alcohol, etc. can trigger migraines).

For many people, it isn’t tomatoes or nightshades that are problematic. It’s gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, legumes. Ultimately, there is no replacement for doing your own research to find what your triggers may be. 

It doesn’t matter how great a drug is if it doesn’t work for you. Or if it stops working. Or if, after years of trying, debilitating pain still keeps you from functioning as you want in your life. An intractable migraine is a hard thing to beat, and even harder to live with. Some people report success from eliminating trigger foods, and you may be one of them. Give yourself the best chance of success, of living the full and beautiful life you’ve wanted to lead. If medicine has failed you, it’s time to take your well-being into your own hands. Start here.

Have you tried an elimination diet? What did you eliminate? What were your triggers?

3 Uncommon Ways to Pay for Migraine Injections (and Other Medications)

How to afford expensive migraine injections prescriptions

How to afford expensive migraine injections prescriptions

Has your doctor prescribed you medication, only to have your insurance decline coverage? Maybe insurance refused to cover the migraine injections because you “only” have 14 days of migraines per month. Or maybe you’re underinsured, or your copays for prescriptions are prohibitively expensive. Whatever your situation, you may still be able to afford migraine shots, and you may not even have to visit the ER.

Check out our post on what to do when you can’t pay for migraine medication for suggestions on affording migraine treatments when you’re underinsured or uninsured. 

1. Go Generic. If you’ve ever bought NyQuil, Tylenol, or Excedrin Migraine then you’ve bought name brand drugs. Go to any pharmacy and you’ll see the store’s brand right next to the name brand for a few dollars less. We tend to more readily trust name brand products, but don’t be nervous about choosing generic medicine. The FDA ensures they have the same active ingredients and strength as the name brand so they’re essentially the same drug. The difference is the cost of developing and marketing generic is far less, and the consumer reaps the benefit.

You can also find generic versions of migraine shots. Sometimes the generic versions are newer and so the doctor isn’t aware that it’s on the market (but can look it up), or like us, they have may have a preference for the brand name version. Your doctor cares about helping you, but it’s up to you to advocate for your budget. Most of your migraine medicine, including migraine injections, comes in generic versions. Don’t pay more if you don’t have to.

2. Get help paying for prescriptions. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (the PPA) is a free service that connects the uninsured and underinsured to programs that provide prescription medicines for free or nearly free. There’s a pretty straightforward application process to determine your eligibility and program availability and then you get a list of programs that you can contact directly for help. It’s worth noting that some will even qualify to get help with BOTOX injections for migraine relief

3. Use a prescription discount card or app. A prescription discount card works like a coupon. Your doctor calls in your prescription and you, instead of paying your copay (or the full cost of the drug), show the coupon at the pharmacy and pay a discounted rate for your medicine. The cards offer substantial savings–some as much as 90%–though discounts vary by card, pharmacy, location and medicine. And though they’re intended for the uninsured and underinsured, some medications are so discounted that paying out of pocket is cheaper than by copay. Do a quick google search and you’ll see that there are tons of these cards. 

Many prescription discount cards also exist as smartphone apps, which may a little easier to find and use than the cards. Find them via the App Store or Google Play, download the app, then search for your medication and compare prices. Choose a nearby pharmacy, or choose the pharmacy with the best price. You can even compare name brand and generic drug prices. Instead of taking the card to the pharmacy, show them the coupon on your phone. 

In researching this article, we conducted a quick and highly unscientific comparison of migraine injections that are available in non-injection form. We chose apps that ranked high in the app store search results and that didn’t require any sort of registration. We used zip code 77030 which is the Texas Medical Center located in central Houston. Prices and availability may vary, but we hope this is a helpful starting point: 

afford your migraine injections

Treating migraines can be extremely costly, especially when it comes to migraine injections. But with these tips you may be able to ease both your pain and your financial burden. 

The No-Nonsense Remedy for A Migraine Hangover

migraine hangover remedy

Migraine advice centers around prevention, treatment and pain management but doesn’t talk much about that strange and frustrating fourth phase: postdrome, also known as the migraine hangover. Not everyone gets it, just as not everyone gets an aura before their migraine, but those who do know how lousy the final stage feels. The pain has gone and left in its place dizziness, brain fog, sluggishness, and low energy. Continue reading “The No-Nonsense Remedy for A Migraine Hangover”